1.13 Setting out the sales stall

Model T production LineWith the arrival of the factory came the mass market. Factories made it possible to produce products and trade resources on a scale far greater than anything previously thought possible.

So, with the mass market came mass marketing, needed to drive sales. Technology also created the means for that to take root.

Industrialization had led to unprecedented levels of material security and wealth. At the same time, factory methods and mechanization meant that the production of goods and services was becoming infinite.

There was no economic motive to switch them off, either. The problem, if anything, was over-supply. Factories were able to produce goods and products indefinitely, powered by conveyor belts that didn’t stop, so consumer demand required constant stimulation.

Mass media and the rise of consumer marketing was the price the new working class paid for having been lifted out of uncertainty and starvation by machinery.

The public relations efforts begun by Edward Bernays (there’s more on that in the previous post), were soon supplemented by a range of advertising media in the 20th Century that fed the factory engine very well and their focus was entirely on stimulating and promoting consumer demand.

Marketing beyond word-of-mouth first arrived in the form of flyers, poster hoardings and press advertising in the second half of the 19th Century. In the 20th Century, these were joined by radio and cinema commercials, before TV advertising arrived on the scene in the 1940’s.

Early billboard

Mass media has its moment

Radio, film and television were all new and highly dynamic forms of media that offered exciting ways of sense-making and storytelling.

Between the 1880’s and 1930’s C.E., rapid developments in media, at least compared to previous years, had meant that silent movies had become talkies and static pictures had become animated.

Thanks to Edwaerd Muybridge, we transitioned from photography to film. Where communication had been flat, now it moved. This led to the motion picture industry.

And then, in the 1950’s, where moving imagery had been black and white, now it was, here, in glorious technicolour.

Satisfying the appetite of the factory line

The growth of marketing communications and media management have been one biggest economic success stories the world has seen over the last 70 years.

When consumerism served to fill the vacuum following the end of the war effort after 1945, a post-war economic boom, driven by the producing, selling and buying of products and services, acted like an adrenalin shot in the arm for the world-wide economy.

As the post-war age began, marketing bloomed. And the twin turbos of technology and economics were powering it.

As a result of needing to encourage the consumption of factory output, media communications in the 1950’s and 1960’s ushered in a golden age of consumer marketing. Television and cinema seemed to make life more fantastical.

Advertising was becoming an ever-present feature on the intersections of busy streets. Soap operas stories, with products attached, came into the living room as part of an entertainment narrative. They introduced an open-ended story format for audiences, brought to them by a commercial sponsor.

From that point on, the narrative to ‘tune in next week’ was beginning to play.

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